How we reached Producthunt #1 Product of The Day As a Solo Founder (And you can too!)
Table of contents
- Your DM strategy will outperform social media strategies.
- Pre-launch social media preparation with 2-1-0
- The list of places I posted:
- Invest in a producthunt launch video
- The timeline of the launch day.
- The 5th-minute heart attack
- Don't force your employees to create accounts just 1 month before the launch.
- Understand producthunt's point system.
- Product Topics matter
- Don't ask the wrong people to support you.
- Opinion: Be ethical, producthunt is watching you.
- Beware of "Security"
Here's what you can do to reciprocate my success and what I learned from launching multiple times on producthunt.
Your DM strategy will outperform social media strategies.
People are 180% more likely to act on your CTA when personally messaged as opposed to a public group post.
Your product marketing manager will miss this out, but this is crucial since there's no guarantee that the right people will even know you launched.
I created an excel sheet months ago before the launch, whenever I helped someone with my product.
But the catch is, I had to manually search on producthunt on whether or not they were an active member (more information on the point system below).
This took months, but this was the primary reason for my success.
I never asked for upvotes, I never asked for comments, I just "told" the right people I launched.
You must ask yourself why this person has to waste 2 minutes of their life to help me out. If you don't have a reason for them to give you feedback, don't ask for it.
Pre-launch social media preparation with 2-1-0
I spoke to a bunch of founders after the launch who had several sessions on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram on launch day.
But the common mistake I'm seeing is the lack of hype before that.
I did 3 campaigns tagging Producthunt on Linkedin and Twitter. (2 days before launch, 1 day before launch, on launch day)
But since they were daily posts, they did perform well simultaneously (at least on LinkedIn, Twitter seems to forget old posts).
Once the product went live I edited the post's link to Producthunt giving an extra 2-3k impression from day-1 posts.
Repetitive brand exposure and continuous high-quality posts will outperform one great social media campaign on the day of the launch.
Getting your logo exposed multiple times increases your case of winning.
The list of places I posted:
Below I've shared a list of all the places I posted, and it was clear that 20% of efforts brought 80% of the results. The list is ordered with the highest impact on top.
- Whatsapp DMs (Winner.)
- Telegram group DMs
- Linkedin DMs (You will be stopped at 250 DMs)
- Facebook DMs (You will be stopped after ~3 hours)
- Linkedin Video Post (Launch day video with thumbnail saying we're live + link)
- Linkedin Image Post (T-1 Edited post with the edited link)
- 3 Facebook Groups posts (image with description + link)
- Twitter Image post (with the link).
- Facebook personal profile post
- Existing customers
- All 3 product blogs I run
- Indiehackers (did not fly, but did work for others)
- 3 Slack Groups I was active on and supported other launches (It didn't get any traction there, but hard to measure)
- 2 Discord groups (no traction, but hard to measure)
- Instagram post (a lot of impressions but almost 0 conversions)
Yes, active Instagram users and mature-active producthunt users seem to be almost mutually exclusive at least for Indians.
I did try Tiktok, but since TikTok is banned in India and I'm using a VPN I'm not sure if they can help with your launch.
Invest in a producthunt launch video
I'm convinced that the only reason we won was because of the launch day video. People loved it (Watch it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9jE2ha5OL4)
It was funny, advertisement-ish and it showed that I spent 4-8 hours of my time only for this community.
What we found out was both #1 and #2 products of the day were from India, we both probably didn't sleep the day before (I hadn't for almost a week)
And on launch day at around 1 am, they started to sleep and so did I.
The timeline of the launch day.
A friend of mine asked how the timeline is during launch day, when to schedule, when I slept etc.
For almost a week before the launch day, I had to squash bugs and check if happy paths worked.
It was painful. Stripe failed for Indian customers, Extension wouldn't install, and Signup flows didn't work well.
I wanted to hunt my product, but a buddy of mine suggested I get a hunter and I did (more information below).
The hunter didn't reply for long so we scheduled the launch at 1 AM IST when the launch was at 12:30 PM IST the same day.
This might have been the reason the product didn't show up on featured, even though we were higher in the number of upvotes.
So make sure you schedule your launch at least 3 days earlier (not sure if this matters, but it's better this way since you get a URL you can keep your social media posts ready)
The social media posts went live exactly at 12:30 PM IST.
The first set of DMs rolled out before 1:30 PM IST to around 30 folks. This is crucial, tell them at least a week ahead and follow up.
Have your team share the LinkedIn post and retweet the launch day tweet. This matters more than having them share the producthunt link.
Glued to my DMs and launch day stats till around 4 PM on launch day, answering support questions and replying to launch comments.
(I had pretty much only slept from 4 AM till 10 AM for a week).
We had some fruit juice for half-hour and then some tea and again started asking for support on Facebook around 7 PM on the launch day which went on until midnight.
The #2 product of the day also did the same.
The first comment is not for marketing your product. It's to tell your struggle.
People love a story. With me, people in the community resonated with my story so much that they wanted me to win.
Every person who has worked to get their product on Producthunt goes through some struggle. That pain defines you.
The struggle is when you spend 28+ hours without sleep on fulfilling a potential customer and they stop responding when you ship the product 4 days later.
The struggle is when users are ready to pay but you realize you haven't incorporated your company, which is going to take around a month of your time.
The struggle is when your long-distance girlfriend breaks up with you because you spend all your waking hours thinking about your startup.
The struggle is when your mom wants to quit her job and you cannot appreciate it fully because of your startup venture.
The struggle is when every friend of yours who does not understand internet startups insults your efforts.
The struggle is when you take your first weekend off in months and come back feeling worse.
The struggle of Inboxpirates and the founder is where its greatness of it comes from.
I get tears in my eyes when people understand what I'm going through because this is rare.
Most people will not understand your path. That's okay. Some will. Make them fall in love with you.
They were part of everything, and they wanted to support me in some way to see me win.
Hunters do matter, but not in the way you'd think.
Rohan Chaubey was my hunter who I met long ago on a slack group. I had heard about him from a friend of mine and he had a bigger following than I did.
Producthunt's official post will tell you it doesn't matter who's your hunter anymore because they don't send emails anymore and only send push notifications.
But there's a higher correlation that people who have a higher following on producthunt also have a nice following on platforms like Twitter and Linkedin with folks who are active on Producthunt.
On the launch day, making them share that they hunted you helps. But unfortunately, we don't have any data on whether people support the notification bell on producthunt or their social media posts.
The 5th-minute heart attack
5 minutes after I went live, I was so excited that so many of my friends were commenting on the launch. They knew how much this meant to me and they knew how far I had gone for this.
But I get a call from Sarvesh Dubey, a buddy of mine who said my product is not featured even though I had 35 upvotes while the #1 product of the day had only 24.
When I say it wasn't featured I couldn't even see the product when sorted by new for a full 3 minutes, it didn't even show up anywhere.
I was devastated and felt betrayed.
He asked me to delete the launch, contact support, and relaunch in 2 weeks. But I couldn't I had spent so much time and effort into marketing with so many sleepless nights.
I contacted producthunt and they told me I wasn't penalized and it takes time to be featured.
We have a couple of theories on why this might have happened:
We scheduled the launch on the same day.
Sarvesh's theory is that the thumbnail of the youtube video had a fire on the thumbnail (for fun marketing purposes) which he felt might have violated their policies.
We can make several theories but no one knows for sure. However, contacting support was the fix.
I can't say with confidence if they had switched on something from their side but 2 minutes after contacting support we were #1 and we never went down!
Don't force your employees to create accounts just 1 month before the launch.
I see several companies doing this. They have 50 employees after raising a pre-seed of 700k, making zombie accounts just upvoting random products a month before the launch. Not worth it, you'll understand why in the next section.
Understand producthunt's point system.
Throughout the day there were several times that other VC-backed companies with 50-200 person teams would have more upvotes. We thought our place was gone as #1, but we still raced to the top again and again.
The first theory was that we were led by the comments. But soon the #2 product of the day started spamming their replies (For 1 comment, they'd reply from 4 maker accounts).
The better theory is that upvotes and comments are graded by 2 factors
Maturity of that person's producthunt account (Check the above image: 2 years old)
Points of that account (Check the above image: 344 points)
So I can tell you with confidence that although our competitors of the day were using external ways to get upvotes, the quality of those accounts was lower and that's why we were #1 even though our comments and upvotes were lower for a couple of hours.
After 2 AM though, both the #1 and #2 product of the day teams slept and people from the other side of the world chose to support our product and the organic upvotes helped us win!
Product Topics matter
Understand that when someone signs up for producthunt, they get to choose topics they're interested in.
Unfortunately, some products irrespective of how good they are will fail with producthunt.
And some products like Notion templates will always fly. The community likes a certain type of product.
So don't worry too much if you're not getting upvoted.
Don't ask the wrong people to support you.
One of the biggest mistakes I did with my previous launch was that I was asking my friends to support it.
They had good intentions, but they were new to producthunt.
But producthunt will see people who joined on the day of the launch as mostly bots (if you are doing this as last resort, at least verify your email before upvoting)
Opinion: Be ethical, producthunt is watching you.
This I cannot prove to you. But I am sure it helps. My theory is that producthunt knew that some competitors were using shady techniques to increase comments or upvotes and hence they were penalized.
One company that launched at 7 PM IST (products are supposed to launch at 12:31 PM IST) magically gained more upvotes than #1 and #2 products of the day in less than 1 hour.
It was extremely clear that they were using bots but two hours later they were completely out of sight. They had lost most of their upvotes.
Don't use bots, don't reply to comments for the sake of replying, and don't ask for upvotes.
Your goal's probably to increase your customer base or brand awareness.
If you're VC backed with 50+ employees competing against indie hackers who have 1 full-time employee, at least play the game fair. :)
Beware of "Security"
Once you launch you will get a wide number of support tickets for people who have found security vulnerabilities.
I think there's some YouTuber out there who gave this idea to security researchers that producthunt products are new and straight out of beta and they won't be testing all of this.
Some have good intentions and will understand your financial position. Some won't and would want to penalize you for not having a great bug bounty.
Squash your bugs.
One of the biggest challenges is squashing your bugs on time. I spent 3-4 days testing everything and still had bugs, but I was just one person and should have gotten help.
No brainer, but invest time in figuring out your customer journey and at least fix the bugs there.
Get your analytics game on.
I use Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Amplitude, Clarity, Posthog, Crewcharge, Ackee, Splitbee, and more tools that pretty much do the same thing.
I'd recommend posthog and splitbee. They both have nice UI, are free to get started, and will give you a nice idea about launch day.
Is it worth missing your sleep for this?
I'd say yes. For bootstrapped founders like me who have pretty much $0 marketing budgets and a lack of connections being from a small town, it's extremely hard to make someone even reply to your messages. Unfortunately, most people will judge you and your product based on social proof irrespective of how much effort you put into it.
If you're like me who is bootstrapped and who doesn't have a nice ad budget with big dreams, you should be grateful that Producthunt exists. I feel although it's hard, it makes the field level for people around the world.
If people blatantly ignore you because of your nationality, or if you can't afford a nice content writing team splitting articles 24 x 7, if you're bootstrapped or if you're an indiehacker having 0 marketing budget and you want to change these things - definitely sacrifice your sleep.
The people who have signed on are from companies that I've looked up to, always. I couldn't reach them on Linkedin, and I'm sure they wouldn't have replied to my cold messages. But with producthunt, I have this enormous social proof saying that "Hey look at this guy he has put so much time and effort into this. We think he's worth paying attention to."
Launch day stats
New Unique Users: ~685 to 879 Signups: ~97 Onboarding Complete and actions are taken: ~68
I was expecting people to magically upgrade to paid versions with 0 emails. For my friend, it did happen, but only after a month. For me, I believe I need to educate and active these customers to upgrade them and I'm happy to learn that now after learning all these things.
They don't teach you this in school.
Resources that helped me
Most of my insights are based on trial and error. I think that's the best way to go.
But I heavily recommend, Abash Kumar on the traction show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixnVP6seXFQ
At the end of the day, launching by itself is great. I thought if I don't make my startup fly within a year I should kill myself.
But I've grown much bigger than that. I understand the journey is much longer and the reward is much more fruitful.
I hate to be dramatic, but I know who I am and I know several people who are entrepreneurs just as crazy as me and you might be one of those.
You've upskilled yourself 20X by working with a startup. You will make it work. If not this product, another one. If not this time, the next launch. Nothing is worth sacrificing your life or peace.
If all things fail, you will go for another job and try this again with a new perspective and more experience.
Be proud and grateful you've come this far. Because if you don't do that, it's hard to keep looking forward.
Given that even if you're the best of the best, there's always a chance for failure. Embrace that.
Fall in love with the journey.